Looking Back at the Rushed 1997 Closure of Opryland USA

In the decade since The New York Times christened Nashville “the nation’s ‘it’ city,” there has been no shortage of profiles and travel pieces about our town. There have been drop-ins from coastal publications and television programs, all clamoring for a look at a city that has seen enormous growth in the 21st century. But this story isn’t about that Nashville. This is a story about the Nashville of the late 1990s. Before the internet, before 9/11, before the bachelorettes descended on Lower Broadway and Nashville found itself a tourist destination for live music and partying. Back then, the biggest tourist attraction in the area was a music-centric theme park called Opryland USA.

Opened in 1972, Opryland was a popular destination that featured roller coasters and other rides, along with a plethora of live shows that highlighted Nashville’s unique performing arts talent. For a time, the park accompanied both the Grand Ole Opry House — home of Nashville’s iconic Grand Ole Opry radio program since 1974 — and the Opryland Hotel, an architectural marvel featuring an indoor jungle and a river flowing through it. If you find a Nashville native and ask one of us about Opryland, you’ll probably hear us wax poetic with nostalgia for a park that now lives only in our collective memory. What few seem to remember is the clumsy nature of its rushed closure by ownership group Gaylord Entertainment 25 years ago this month… read more >

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